Critical turns in big mountains; Plake doing what Plake does best.
“It was really fun. Every turn was different and I’m not lying, it really was perfect conditions. It was impeccable, it was perfect.” -Glen Plake
Will someone please tell Rémy Lécluse and Glen Plake how bad this pre-ski season sucks in Europe? These guys have clearly been left off the Negativeland email list or else they would have known better than to drive a couple hours south and pin a first descent (in November!) when they should have been hanging out in the bars whinging about not enough snow, or too many gorgeous autumn days, or the empty trails and rock routes, or the color of the sky, or pretty much anything, really.
But these two have been around long enough to know that good snow ain’t that hard to find if you just know where to look. On November 19th the two big-mountain ballers tapped the pristine southeast couloir of 3777m Pointe de la Lune (Punta Ceresole) on the Cresta Gastaldi of Gran Paradiso.
Lécluse spotted the couloir while skiing in Val di Piantonetto. Believing that the strong foehn wind that had hammered Chamonix he contacted Plake who immediately said yes.
“People give me heck for being so enthusiastic about skiing but I think Rémy may have me beat. He’s always fired up to go do something on his skis. I mean I get excited but he’s like a little kid. It’s great to be around.” -Glen Plake
The team chose an alternative approach to the classic Val d’Orco route, choosing instead to go in through Val Piantonetto where the road goes to 1917m. “Less walking, more skiing is our motto!”
Rémy in the 60-year-old Bivacco Ivrea. "Sleeps 9 if they like each other very, very much."
Lécluse and Plake skinned up to Col del Becchi at 2989 meters, cutting trail through 20-30cm of powder before scoring nice powder turns down to the Bivacco Ivrea. “Powder, powder and more powder!”
Lécluse and Plake left the bivy the next morning at 7:00, were at the bottom of the couloir by 8:00 and on the summit at 9:30. Rémy reports the first chute is about 100-150 meters long, 45˚, and 2-to-4 meters wide.
The big powder field in the middle was around 30˚ and about 300 meters long.
The bottom section was around 500 vertical meters, ‘quite wide’, at “an average of 40-45˚ with some solid 50.”
Plake in the middle powder field.
The team skied the route in about half an hour, which includes the time it took to shoot photos.
“The run wasn’t that steep, mostly around 40˚-45˚ with some sections around 50˚, maybe a bit more. The big slope above the cliff was especially beautiful. That’s where we found that special ambiance that you only get from steep skiing.” -Rémy Lécluse
Some downclimbing was needed to get through the last chimney before scoring “an amazing powder skiing party” back to the Ivrea. An hour of skinning took them back to Col del Becchi before they tucked in to the icing on the cake: hundreds of powder turns between snow mushrooms in perfect powder, then a last 100 meters of breakable crust back to the Rifugio Pontese.
Gran Paradiso Massif, Punta di Ceresole (3777m), southeast couloir. 600 meters, 40-45˚/50˚, 5.2, E3
Two days, 2000 meters of powder skiing, and a sweet first descent. In November. Would somebody please tell these guys how bad the snow sucks!
Are we not men? Rémy Lécluse, Glen Plake
Rémy skis: Dynastar Mythic 178 (Rémy worked on design/testing) boots: Scarpa Maestrale binders: Plum Guide outerwear: Arc’teryx Atom jacket, Gamma trousers backpack: Arc’teryx Silo 30 pack hardware: Grivel Air-Tech carbon axes, Grivel Air-Tech crampons
Glen skis: Elan Himalaya 177 “My new favorite pair of skis – 95 underfoot and less than 1400 gms. It’s the big brother to the Elan Alaska that I helped design and which just won Ski of the Year from Ski Alper magazine.” boots: Dalbello Virus Lite binders: Plum Guide outerwear: Salewa Glen Plake Choice (pants, jacket, down sweater, gloves) backpack: Salewa Glen Plake Choice hardware: Salewa crampons “a hybrid I made using a steel front and aluminum heel.” Charlet Aztarex ice axe. eyewear: Julbo Explorer “everyone knows these are the best mountain sunglasses in the world, hands down.” poles: Leki WC. “A little longer than nromal for touring and steeps. Fixed length, not adjustable!!! I don’t trust or use adjustable poles for steeps.” sleeping bag: “We didn’t know what we would find at the refuge so I took my new -8˚ Salewa bag. It’s light, under a kilo. Even though the bivouac ended up being fully equipped the bag was really cozy, it’s frikkin nice.”